For Students

17 Sep

I’m thankful that all students are safe following last evening’s storms.  For those of you who live in residence halls or were in other campus buildings, your cooperation in following emergency instructions was critical.  The residence hall staffs, the Dean of Students Office, and the staff of Student Affairs worked hard to ensure student safety.  They did a great job.  I’m told by Vice President Smith and Dean Lombardi that they are working with the local Red Cross Chapter, and through the Campus Involvement Center will provide an opportunity for students and student organizations to support those in need.  If you  want to participate either as an individual or with a group, please contact the Dean of Students Office (593-1800).


I’m trying something different this quarter when it comes to communicating with students.  In the past, I would send out a monthly email in a rotation that also included the President, the Vice President for Student Affairs, and the President of Student Senate.  But it’s clear that email is not the preferred mode of communication for you (although DO check your email because it is still the preferred mode of communication for faculty).  By switching to a blog, I hope to make my contacts with students less formal and more interesting for you.  Please take a moment or two and look through the blog.  It is still in its infancy but if you have suggestions I would be happy to hear them (post a comment).

Maybe I can begin by explaining exactly what it is that I do, as provosts are typically not encountered outside the confines of universities.  My title “executive vice president and provost” is a bit of mouthful.  The reason why that is the case is that it attempts, however inelegantly, to signal that I have responsibilities for academic units (such as colleges and campuses) and support units (such as Institutional Equity, Institutional Research, Financial Aid, and Admissions, etc.).

My role is to help ensure that the university gives students every opportunity to reach their academic goals.  I care about the classrooms that you sit in, the labs that you work in, the library that you study in, the technology that helps you do your work, and the teaching and advising that you receive from faculty–just to name a few things.  I work on a daily basis with the President, the Vice Presidents, the Deans, Professors, and a significant cross-section of university staff to make these things the best that they can possibly be.

We know that when we do our jobs well that you will be able to go out into the world as artists, scientists, teachers, scholars, and professionals, and accomplish meaningful things.  Once that happens, then we get to be proud of you.  That’s the part that all of us love.


22 Responses to “For Students”

  1. A.A.D. September 17, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    Great blog. Thanks for creating this!

    • Jennifer September 17, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

      I second that. Thank you for creating competition in the lost written word…

      • ohioevpp September 18, 2010 at 8:32 am #

        Thanks A.A.D. and Jennifer. We’ll do our best to keep it interesting. Keep joining in as the spirit moves you.

  2. Kevin Berry September 17, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    I was disappointed that I only received a text message an hour after the University began implementing it’s emergency procedures. It’s concerning that it could potentially take the University so long to respond and communicate information to students in the event of future emergencies. Are you satisfied with the implementation of the emergency text message system last night or should we expect changes in the decision making process associated with sending them in the future?

    • Erik Muldrow September 17, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

      I think the majority of the student body is in agreement that the emergency text message system immensely failed to meet expectations last night; it is important for the entire community to know what is going on, especially when the situation could be so potentially catastrophic. A lack of information is the main cause for rumors – rumors which could have the power to make or break student cooperation. Personally, I was disappointed when I received a text message informing me that there was a tornado alert in effect until 8:30; I wasn’t upset due to the inconvenient delay (safety first), I was upset that I didn’t get the text until 8:47. To Kevin Berry who commented above, I don’t believe that anyone could be satisfied with the last night’s demonstration of OU’s emergency text system, there are clearly several kinks that need to be worked out. On a less churlish note, I want to give a thumbs up to all the Faculty/Staff/Good Samaritans for their quick reactions and helpful attitudes during the entire situation. 🙂

  3. ohioevpp September 17, 2010 at 6:16 pm #


    Here’s what I know about the timing of the text message.

    When the university chooses to use its text message system depends a great deal on the nature of the emergency.

    Last night the decision was made to concentrate on the use of the outdoor emergency notification system, an emergency phone line, cable television in residence hall rooms, and the emergency page on

    Part of the problem with the text message system is that not all students are signed up to receive it. As a result, in this emergency it was deemed to be a supplemental rather than a primary means of communication.

    However, we need to know if students have different expectations about the emergency text messaging system. Is it something that students turn to first? If the information is not sent through a text message, where do you turn for information?

    If you could provide some insights, it would help in shaping the decision making process associated with sending text messages.

    Ann Fidler (for Provost Benoit)

    • Tom Morrisey September 17, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

      Just wanted to echo Kevin’s concerns. A text message in a great, active way to grab someone’s attention. A TV spot, a page on a Web site… you’re presuming on a Friday night that students and faculty are continuously monitoring such things?! I would strongly recommend an active way of reaching out in future emergencies — text, phone call, air-raid sirens, something to grab our attention! I was obliviously having a drink and reading in my apartment throughout the whole event.

    • Erik Muldrow September 17, 2010 at 6:49 pm #


      I feel that if the majority of students are going to be instructed to remain in the hallways of their residence halls, the fact that information is broadcasted through cable, the website and the outdoor emergency notification system is inefficient and inconvenient. My only concern about the outdoor notification system is that it cannot be heard from inside unless the occupants are kept quiet, which did not happen in the residence hall where I took refuge. When all the students are huddle along a hallway, the presence of a single student signed up to receive the texts would be extremely beneficial and comforting, but only if the texts are sent. This is simply how I feel, I’m sorry if I’m coming off as ignorant or boorish.

    • jj September 17, 2010 at 6:55 pm #


      It took 2 1/2 hours for my text message to reach me.

      Students living off-campus who can’t hear outdoor emergency notifications and who are without electricity because of the storm and can’t, therefore, have access to the web rely on text messaging. It’s hardly “supplemental” to them.

      Moreover, if this messaging system is to be trusted, it must be reliable and consistent. Either it is used during emergencies, in a timely fashion, or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then it is no longer an emergency notification system and there is no longer any reason for students to sign up for it.

      Finally, why send an emergency text message 2 hours after the fact when there is no longer any immediate danger? You could have decided not to use text notification at all, for the (bad) reasons you mentioned, but using messaging after the fact makes no sense. Once the emergency has passed, it is no longer an emergency and therefore there is no longer any need to message anyone.


    • Lauren Morrow September 17, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

      I feel that it would have been helpful to have recieved the emails. I was in a class in Grover, on the top floor. We could not hear anything going off and I was not aware till I checked my phone and had a text from my mom telling me about the warning and asking were I was. We almost left class. I fell that they need to be sent,I cant imange that it would take very long to send the message to phones and I know it would have helped all of us in the class feel safe. I recieved the message but as stated it was sent very late. I would as well as others I have talked to would like to beable to recieve texts as soon as possible when something is going on. Also my teacher and others in Grove did NOT know how to respond and what to do when we found out about the warning. This was NOT acceptable and I ask that you make sure everyone working for the university know what to do if something like this occurs.

    • Juliana September 18, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

      I know that most students are attached to their phones most of the day, including me, so I know that my text messages are the first/primary thing I check. Even though not everyone is signed up for the emergency text alerts, I am betting that those who are signed up for it rely on it heavily and primarily.

  4. Shea Daniels September 17, 2010 at 7:56 pm #

    Good evening!

    I do think that the emergency text messaging system is really important. However, I had a totally different question. Ellis is kind of falling apart. We English majors very much appreciate that our building is unique and quaint and well loved…but we have a water fountain covered in a trash bag, stairs that are barricaded because they are unsafe, and other stairs that probably should be. Is there any chance we could get a working water fountain and stairs that we can use?

    Thank you for your time.

    –Shea Daniels

    • ohioevpp September 18, 2010 at 8:28 am #


      Thanks for directing our attention to some of the issues that exist with Ellis. I’ll see what we can find out about the stairs and the water fountain. By the way, nice homage to Ellis–unique, quaint, and well-loved. You’ve summed it up perfectly.

      Ann Fidler

    • ohioevpp September 20, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

      Dear Shea:

      Here’s what I found out from Facilities about Ellis.


      “I believe the stairs the student is referring to are outside. We have 1/2 of them blocked off right now waiting on the contractor to repair them. The bid is out, the contractor is starting the work and should get to them shortly.

      The water fountain should be repaired in the next several days. We are waiting on parts to repair.”

      • Shea September 27, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

        Thank you SO MUCH for looking into this. The water fountain is a little thing that makes a big difference. And I know that we’ll enjoy having our stairs fixed. Foot traffic will be able to flow more naturally now, which makes a huge difference in getting to and from class.

        Thanks again. : – ).

        –Shea Daniels

      • ohioevpp September 28, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

        You are welcome, Shea.


  5. OU Employee/Student September 17, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    I agree with Kevin. OU should’ve sent that text message right way. I was expecting it and not getting it was a big disappointment for me.

  6. Sandra L Gehlfuss September 17, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    I have enjoyed reading the new blog as well as learning the position of the provost. I am an online student and hope all is well after the terrible weather conditions.

  7. ohioevpp September 18, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    Thanks for your comments about expectations surrounding the emergency text messaging system. It is very helpful to hear from you and I appreciate the specific detail that you provided. I’ve already started the process of consulting with some of my colleagues on this issue. I hope to be able to provide a follow-up shortly that addresses the issues that you have raised.


  8. Andy September 18, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    Emergency text messages are “supplemental” because not all students will receive them? If so, then why is it that the first time I heard any official word from OU about the warning was a full seventeen minutes after the warning had passed?

    I’ll tell you why: because none of the other warning methods reached me. I was in my dorm, playing Halo. I didn’t hear the siren, I didn’t see the TV warning (since I wasn’t watching TV) and I wasn’t obsessively checking the OU website.

    Simply put, if I were to have received the warning, I would have to have been actively searching for the warning.

    Meanwhile, if I had received a text message, you can bet that I would have spread the word through as many channels as possible. Instead, I just sat in the hallway, completely in the dark (except for hearsay and rumors) as to what was actually going on. Luckily, the rumors were accurate.

    The only reason I got in the hallway in the first place was because I heard a louder-than-usual commotion outside my room and went to see what was happening. Nobody knocked on my door or anything. I didn’t even know whether or not we were required to be in the hallways.

    Supplemental to what?

  9. Kevin Berry September 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    Dean Fidler,
    It seems as if there is consensus here that text message systems are the best method to quickly address students in an effective manner. And while it’s important to recognize that not everyone is signed up to receive these messages, it’s also apparent that once an individual receives a text it’s likely that they are to pass the information along. Just like all other emergency notifications systems that the university employs, the text system is incomplete. However when layered with other options it helps to facilitate timely communication. I would suggest that as the university is examining it’s protocols for use of text messages that it should examine whether a decision to utilize outdoor sirens should automatically trigger a decision to send an accompanying text message. And in closing, I’d like to touch on one point that I don’t think has been fully articulated here. Text messages are different in nature than the sirens that appear to serve as the overriding and dominant notification system on campus. While sirens provide an foreboding sense of urgency, they fail to articulate the nuances of a particular situation. On the other hand, text messages enable the university to finely tailor a message, providing accurate and timely information to the university community. It’s this ability to effectively communicate and prevent the spread of inaccurate rumors that text messages excel at.

    I hope this is helpful and thank you for taking time to communicate with the student body.

    • ohioevpp September 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

      Dear Kevin:

      Your post is helpful. Thanks for taking the time to reflect on some of the important issues that surrounded the emergency and the University’s response to it.

      Since I last posted on the blog about that response, I have attended a debriefing session that helped me understand a little bit more about what happened that evening. I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you and others who have indicated their concerns on the blog.

      1. I learned that there are operational limitations to the text messaging system because of the type of options that our vendor is capable of providing. As a result of concerns expressed by students and others, the University is going to look at what other vendors might be able to provide in the way of better options for emergency text messaging.

      2. I also learned that even with a better service provider there will always be limits to the reliability of a text messaging system. This has to do with the bandwidth that is available to be used and with each individual’s cell phone provider.

      In an emergency like the one on September 16, many people all at once begin to use their cell phones. This causes delays in the transmission of text messages.

      Bandwidth is one of the reasons why some people received the text message that the University eventually sent in minutes while it took 2+ hours for others to receive it.

      Making headway on this issue is tough because it is not something that the University has the ability to control. I did hear at the meeting, however, that these concerns would be raised by the University with the major carriers to see if there are some ways to ameliorate this issue.

      Given that this is the case, we need to find ways to set realistic expectations for emergency text messaging.

      3. I learned that one of the cell transmission towers was damaged during the storm and was not able to function–which probably also had an impact on how quickly some individuals received the text message.

      4. Other issues that are being explored beyond text messaging are:

      *Ways to send warning messages directly into classrooms. For example, if a professor is using a computer that is connected to the internet to display a presentation, a message could be sent by OIT into each building to override the display with an emergency warning message.

      *Ways to use PA systems inside buildings to broadcast emergency warning messages in conjunction with the use of the siren system.

      5. Finally, I’ve put together a faculty group to develop ways in which we can assist faculty to be better prepared to help their students respond to emergencies.

      So, to sum up, there’s a flurry of activity taking place to respond to the important concerns that have been raised by students, faculty, and staff. I’m confident that the right conversations are taking place and that they will result in appropriate actions.

      As things, develop I will use the blog to provide updates. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have further questions or concerns.


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